Quick Thoughts: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Stanley Kubrick’s film that needs no introduction from me…
Whew… what can I say about this one? We all know it, have our theories and yeah it’s an undeniable classic–a little slow, but great nonetheless. My favourite thing about this film is its cold distance. I think that says more about me than the film, but making something of such personal vision that becomes a classic is more than inspiring. The film is slow, disjointed, clunky in parts (especial with dialogue) and of course, as with most of Kubrick’s pictures, it’s cold and distant. But I think that’s what we all love about his films. They’re a mark above us all and they kind of know it. Someone says Kubrick, the next person says genius–in all likelihood. I’m not going to dispute facts of his personal character, I don’t know the guy, but it’s clear that’s the weight he holds. His filmography demands raised palms a bit of back-pedalling. You may not love his films, but can’t really say they’re bad. And I think this is because of the austere tone each moment of his movies are imbued with. His films are almost like an asshat know-it-all that you depend on for the answers for tests. Yes, he/she looks down on you, yes they’re clearly smarter–you might not like that–but, they get 100% on the test and you’re kind of using them. This is the grey area of criticism in my view. To critique is to assume your opinion is above a film–whether you love it or not. There is no passivity in criticism–I’m not saying there should be, but if you want to question what art is, well… in my opinion art is emotional output. In short, you take what you’re feeling and funnel it through a medium–same goes with all human output, but I don’t want to veer off on too large a tangent. If art, film, is just someone’s feelings (in a soppy, gooey sense) then why do we revere other feelings on top of those feelings – critics opinions. And, yes, the obvious answer is ‘we assume they know what they’re going on about’ or ‘I agree with Ebert almost all the time’. But, to stay within the existential and nihilistic: is that right? To flip the tables and possibly lose you: we’re recycling feelings. Kubrick feels this, it goes into a film. That feeds into a critic, then us. That’s the much abbreviated version. In truth there are a myriad of opinions that influenced Kubrick, ourselves, the critic. I mean, we could get into a horrible cycle of nature vs. nurture and social conditioning here, but I’ll let you insert the mental gymnastics. All I want to convey is that Kubrick’s slow, meandering and amazingly ambiguous classic maybe just works because it is so bland, yet so deep. Like an endless bowl of porridge. Yeah, it’s just porridge–BUT IT GOES ON FOREVER!! You’d get people lining more than around the block for that one–world hunger cured–that’s if Umbeke’s mother could convince him it’s better than just slop, but, off point. What Kubrick does with 2001 is hint at the impossibly ambiguous whilst saying very little. This is the beauty of pictures: they explain themselves. The less of a human, the less emotion (maybe the less art) in a piece of art (paradoxical, I know) the better it is. I don’t know who said it, but: the best art is hidden. What does this mean? People love themselves. 2001 basically gives anyone the tools to dive into unfathomable philosophical thought, into their own art (emotional output). Maybe this is why it’s a classic.
All in all, 2001, maybe not Kubrick’s classic. Maybe it’s all of ours. Maybe it’s just mine.
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